Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run was pivotal in launching his career as a credible actor and leading man. Although considered a comedy classic today, the 1969 film actually lost money at the time of its release.
By Brian Hannan
All you need is top stars and top directors and
making movies is easy. Surely you couldn’t miss with a line-up that included
Sean Connery, Steve McQueen, Michael Caine, Dustin Hoffman, Lee Marvin, Omar
Sharif, and directors of the calibre of Robert Aldrich (hot after The Dirty Dozen), John Boorman (Point Blank) and Woody Allen. Or so ABC
must have thought when it set up a movie division in the late 1960s. Delving
into the archives recently, I discovered that Sam Peckinpah’s rodeo picture Junior Bonner (1972) starring Steve
McQueen was a box office stinkeroo. The picture lost $2.8m (about $15m in
today’s money). Not just on domestic release, but worldwide.
The movie was made by ABC in a disastrous five-year
foray into the movie business and McQueen was not alone in being on the
receiving end of a lot of red ink. The Sean Connery-Brigitte Bardot western Shalako (1968) directed by the veteran
Edward Dymytryk (The Carpetbaggers, The
Young Lions) was another loser - $1.25m
down the drain. At least Peckinpah redeemed himself with Straw Dogs (1973) starring Hoffman which ponied up $1.45m in
profits. Lee Marvin in John Boorman’s war film Hell in the Pacific (1968) dug a box office foxhole so deep it
buried a loss of $4.1m. But the biggest loser was Michael Caine. War picture Too Late the Hero (1970), directed by
Robert Aldrich and equally set in the Pacific, kissed goodbye to a colossal
$6.7m. And that was not the worst of it for Caine. The Last
Valley (1971), a historical drama set in the One Hundred Years War in
medieval Europe, written and directed by James Clavell (writer of Tai Pan and director of To Sir with Love) and co-starring Omar
Sharif, tanked to the tune of $7.1. Aldrich had little luck with ABC – his
lesbian drama The Killing of Sister
George (1968) starring Susannah York lost $750,000 and kidnap thriller The Grissom Gang (1971) another $3m.
The Oscar-nominated They Shoot Horses, Don’t They that restored Jane Fonda’s acting
credibility was $1.2m shy of break-even. Even Woody Allen’s magic touch
deserted him – Take the Money and Run
(1969) in the hole for $610,000. Check out the resume of Exorcist author and Exorcist
III director William Peter Blatty and you won’t find mention of Mastermind, starring Zero Mostel. At one
point it was set for a May 1970 release, but never saw the light of day. All
told ABC lost $47m before it threw in the towel.
Brian Hannan is the author of The Making of the Guns of Navarone (Baroliant Press).
We all know the cautionary tale: "Be careful what you wish for- you just might get it!" That certainly applies to those who seek fame and fortune in show business. Child stars are particularly vulnerable to the down side of the industry. One day they are lauded as major stars, the next they can be seen as washed-up has-beens. In many cases, they die young through tragic circumstances, many of which are self-imposed. The web site Ranker takes on a sobering journey through the lives of 30 child stars who died long before their time. Click here to view.
One of our loyal subscribers, Rodney Barnett, has his own addictive retro movie blog, Bloody Pit of Rod. He's located some cool, cheesy 1970s original ads for a line of Planet of the Apes toys. We especially love the "Forbidden Zone Trap"! Click here to view.
The toy image above comes from Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive, a super cool site dedicated to everything "Apish". Click here to visit.
Some of the international movie posters presented in Cinema Retro issue #28, which features in-depth coverage of the making of Zulu.
By Brian Hannan
anniversary showing of Zulu in Britain next month is unlikely to be
repeated in the U.S. where the film flopped. But even the poorest box-office performer has an afterlife. So in 1965 Zulu was pushed out again anywhere that
would have it. That meant it supported some odd, not to say ugly, bedfellows –
exploitationer Taboos of the World in
Kansas City, The Three Stooges in The
Outlaws Is Coming in Phoenix, B
western Stage To Thunder Rock in Long Beach, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini in Des Moines and Rhino in Abilene. They liked it in Long Beach where it supported both
Circus World and That Man from Rio. It was the second feature to None But the Brave in Provo, Utah, and to
two more successful Joe E. Levine movies, Yesterday,
Today and Tomorrow in Ironwood, Michigan, and Marriage, Italian Style in Corpus Christi, Texas. Triple bills
being a staple of drive-ins, it was seen with Viva Las Vegas and Beach
Party in Tucson.
But it was not just support
meat. Almost a year after its release, it topped the bill in Helena, Montana,
with Robert Mitchum in Man in the Middle
as support. In Chester it was the main attraction with Homicidal in support. In Weimar, Texas, it was supported by Tarzan the Magnificent and in Bridgeport
by First Men on the Moon. At the
Cecil theatre in Mason City, Iowa, it played on its own, as it did in Colorado
Springs where it was advertised as “in the great tradition of Beau Geste” (supply your own exclamation
But it was not done yet.
Exhibitors in San Mateo had a soft spot for Zulu in 1966. It played there seven
times, as support to The Great Race, Marlon Brando western Appaloosa, Fantastic Voyage
(in two theaters), What’s Up Tiger Lily?, The Leather
Boys and Lawrence of Arabia.
Abilene brought it back twice, for a re-match with Rhino and then in a double bill with Kimberley Jim starring singer Jim Reeves when it was promoted as “a
true story of the Zulu tribe.” Fremont cinemas also ran in twice – with Return of the Seven and Fantastic Voyage. In Troy and Bennington
it rode shotgun with Elvis in Harum
Scarum. In Charleston it supported Arabesque,
in Winona The Second Best Secret Agent and in Long Beach What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?
The highlight of 1967 had to
be a double bill with The Daleks (Dr Who and the Daleks) in Delaware, or
perhaps the teaming with Batman in
Cumberland, Maryland, or El Cid in
Ottawa. Zulu returned twice to
Fremont to support Africa Addio and John
Sturges’ Hour of the Gun. In Modesto
it played with Where The Spies Are.
In Long Beach it was put on at a pop concert where the headline act was
Organized Confusion (anybody remember them?). These three years of repeated
showings hardly counted as a proper reissue, but it did cast an interesting
light on what may – or may not – have turned into something of a cult film. In
Britain, where it was a smash hit, it was reissued on the ABC circuit in 1967
Brian Hannan is the author
of the forthcoming The Reissue Bible.
Joe Dante's Trailers From Hell site presents the original theatrical trailer for John Boorman's classic 1972 screen adaptation of James Dickey's "Deliverance" starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds and Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty, both in their feature film debuts. The trailer includes commentary by film director Neil Labute. Click here to view Click here for Cinema Retro's review of the Blu-ray 40th anniversary release.
Every aspect of Alfred Hitchcock's career and films has been analyzed by countless film historians. But writer Shaun Chang has a new angle to pursue: a look at how the menswear featured in Hitch's films provides insights into his leading characters. Click here to read.
Curly and Shemp were long gone but even in the 1960s, the "new" Three Stooges continued to gain popularity with a younger generation. The slapstick kings "starred" in a series of cartoons and even inspired a long-running comic book series published by Gold Key. The web blog 1966 My Favorite Year presents a gallery of Stooges comics covers. Click here to view.
Joe Dante's Trailers From Hell presents the teaser trailer for Paint Your Wagon, the 1969 mega flop musical starring Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood and Jean Seberg. This is yet another epic film that has judged by its boxoffice results instead of its artistic merits. Fortunately, Alan Spencer provides a good introduction and narration to the trailer and points out the film's attributes. The downside is that this teaser trailer itself runs only one minute but Spencer provides plenty of insightful facts into his commentary. Click here to view
The addictive pop culture blog Hill Place presents an impassioned defense of Tina Louise as Ginger over Dawn Wells as Mary Ann on the Gilligan's Island TV sitcom. Retro TV lovers have long been debating who was the hottest chick on the isle: sweet but sexy "good girl Mary Ann or "bad girl" diva Ginger. It's amazing how compelling this article actually is, as it delves into the behind-the-scenes rivalry between the two actresses. Click here to read
Joe Dante's Trailers From Hell web site presents the original theatrical trailer for the British crime classic Get Carter starring Michael Caine, directed by Mike Hodges. Diretor Neil Marshall is an admirer of the film and provides the commentary track over the trailer, which can also be viewed without commentary. Click here to view
Dateline Hollywood, March 21, 1967: Steve McQueen gets the honor of having his handprints immortalized in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, as commemorated in this snippet from a British film magazine of the era.
The AMC Filmsite presents an interesting decade-by-decade analysis of the greatest boxoffice disasters of all time. Author Tim Dirks points out what many critics fail to: that some of these films, such as Cleopatra, were extremely popular with audiences but their extravagant production costs caused the studios to bleed red ink. He also includes a caveat that some films that lost great sums in initial release were able to slide into profitability over many years through TV rights and video sales. Dirks is also not part of the crowd of critics who pile on every movie that lost money. He makes the case for some films of artistic merit such as Friedkin's Sorcerer, despite the fact that it was a boxoffice flop. The charts adjust the boxoffice grosses for inflation, which gives new relevance to what the greatest flops really were. Click here to read.
What a year it was! In 1966, you could see the following movies playing locally in Winnipeg, Canada: Dean Martin as Matt Helm in The Silencers, James Coburn as Our Man Flint, The Trouble With Angels, Carry on Cleo, The Sound of Music and a quadruple feature of monsters flicks: Die Monster, Die, Eegah, Tomb of Ligeia and Planet of the Vampires.
With all the (deserved)
appreciation of Zulu, it’s hard to
imagine it was a massive flop in the US. Independent producer Joe Levine
planned a double whammy for summer 1963 – The
Carpetbaggers, an adaptation of the sizzling Harold Robbins bestseller, and
Zulu. He even arranged for Zulu to follow The Carpetbaggers into
the prestigious Palace first run cinema in New York. Spending big, Levine,
whipped up a huge marketing campaign for Zulu,
which had notched up record grosses in the UK.
But the two films could not
have been further apart. Where The
Carpetbaggers stormed to $862,000 from 25 theatres in the New York area, Zulu could only manage $190,000 from 30
in Los Angeles. Zulu scored well in
first run in Detroit (running four weeks) and Chicago, but was quickly (perhaps
too quickly) consigned to drive-ins. Failure to find a niche was not for want
of trying. In successive weeks in LA, it was supported by Nicholas Ray's epic 55 Days At Peking, comedy Ensign Pulver, and Viking adventure The Long Ships.
To salvage something, Levine send it out, within a couple of months
of initial release, as the support film to Italian-made Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow starring Italian sexpot Sophia Loren,
possibly one of the strangest movie programs of all time. In the annual box
office rankings, The Carpetbaggers
placed second. To get into the Variety
annual chart, you needed to make more than $1m in rentals (the amount the
studio received after the cinema had taken its cut). Seventy-eight movies
managed this. Zulu was not one of
(Brian Hannan is the author
of the forthcoming The Reissue Bible.)
The addictive retro web site Avengers in Time presents a short but heartfelt tribute to the classic British TV series The Persuaders starring Tony Curtis and Roger Moore as rich playboys who get swept up in incredible adventures. The expensive 1971 series was produced by Lew Grade and didn't last long. Although it was very popular internationally, it never caught on in the all-important American market and was thus canceled. However, this did free up Roger Moore to take over the role of James Bond, thus providing a silver lining for his fans. Click here to access tribute page which includes the superb opening credits with music by John Barry. It makes it all the more painful that many of today's TV series dispense with opening credits altogether.
Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde had all the makings of
a substantial hit when it opened in August 1967, its take increasing every week
for four weeks at the Forum and Murray Hill cinemas in New York. The violence,
the fashion, the birth of a new star (Faye Dunaway) and the rebirth of an old
one (Warren Beatty) attracted acres of publicity. But somewhere along the way,
the movie lost momentum, ending the year at a lowly 37th on the
annual box office chart. But in December, Joseph Morgenstern of Newsweek revised his previous negative
review and a week later Time magazine
devoted six pages to ‘the movie of the year’. Although Beatty, also the producer, agitated
for a reissue, Warner Brothers hardly went hell-for-leather. It reopened at the
394-seat New View in Los Angeles and the even smaller 160-seat Janus Two in
Washington. The week before in LA at the 810-seater Vogue Bonnie and Clyde grossed $16,000 but, backed by a new campaign, the
much smaller New View generated $22,000, with queues, not surprisingly, around
the block. Elsewhere, the movie was booked into small cinemas where the
prospect of a holdover was high. The publicity machine kicked into top gear as the
Oscars approached (it was nominated for ten). When re-launched in over 300
cinemas, it spread like wildfire. A second stab in St Louis broke the house
record. Compared to original release,
takings in most cinemas doubled. In Los Angeles it broke the record for a ‘multiple
run’ (wide release) and challenged Mary Poppins’ record for most chart
appearances by a non-roadshow in Variety’s
weekly box office Top Ten. The reissue supplemented the original $5m gross
by another $33m.
From The Reissue Bible by Brian Hannan to be published later this year.
(Click here for review of Bonnie and Clyde DVD special edition)
Fritz Weaver discusses the making of Fail Safe with Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer at a 2009 screening of the film at The Players club in New York City.
Sidney Lumet's 1964 thriller Fail Safe centers on an accidental launch of an American nuclear bomber strike on Moscow and the frantic efforts of the U.S. President (superbly played by Henry Fonda) to convince the Soviet premiere not to retaliate. The tension-packed film was a boxoffice dud at the time, despite glowing reviews. That is because Stanley Kubrick convinced Columbia to buy the rights to the film and shelve it until after his similarly-themed Dr. Strangelove went into release. Kubrick rationalized that if Fail Safe were released first, the impact would have been so great on the public that no one would have accepted a satirical version of the same premise. The result? Strangelove became a boxoffice smash while Fail Safe took many years to reach its intended audience through television broadcasts. The film has no musical score and is masterfully shot in a documentary-like style. There are outstanding performances by Walter Matthau, Dan O'Herlihy, Frank Overton, Larry Hagman and- in his big screen debut- Fritz Weaver. Look for Dom DeLuise in a rare dramatic role.
Click here to order special DVD edition from Amazon
Loren did receive equal line billing with Charlton Heston in print ads for El Cid (as indicated by this trade magazine advertisement for the film's reissue). However, she was appalled to find that the billing arrangement on a Times Square billboard had relegated her name to an area below Heston's.
By Brian Hannan
A row broke out
this week in Italy over promoters choosing to give Brad Pitt top billing for 12
Years A Slave, a film that depicts the plight of an African American man played
by Chiwetel Ejiofor. That reminded me of a lawsuit brought by Sophia Loren over
El Cid in January 1962.Although
contractually guaranteed equal billing with Charlton Heston, her name had been
featured below his on an electric billboard in Times Square in New York
promoting the Samuel Bronston roadshow presentation at the Warner Theatre. Her name
on the billboard was in equal size to Heston’s but she demanded it should be on
the same line. She sought a temporary injunction in the New York Supreme Court
to stop the sign being used and, in a drastic turn of events, then demanded her
name be removed entirely from all promotion to do with the film. She claimed
the action had damaged her prestige and reputation. The New York court
disagreed. Aggrieved at being denied the temporary injunction, she was set to
continue her lawsuit and there was a stalemate for several days in February until
common sense prevailed. Loren was no stranger to rows over billing and later
had a titanic tussle with Marlon Brando over who got top billing on The Countess
From Hong Kong. She lost that one, too.
Click here to read the original formal complaint filed by Sophia Loren's attorneys.
If you love director Richard Brooks' slam-bang 1966 Western The Professionals as much as we do, you should click here to gaze at some great international posters from the film that starred Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Claudia Cardinale (at her hottest!), Jack Palance, Woody Strode and Ralph Bellamy. It's part of Steve Thompson's blog celebrating his favorite year: 1966, and what baby boomer could argue with him?
From the rumored suicide of a Munchkin to debates about how many dresses Dorothy wears, there are still controversies attached to the beloved 1939 MGM screen version of The Wizard of Oz. Click here to find the facts behind the legends.
The "Trailers From Hell" web site presents the original trailer for the 1972 Western Chato's Land starring Charles Bronson. John Landis provides an amusing commentary for the trailer, reflecting on his experiences working on the film and enduring the "Mad Dog and Englishman" himself, director Michael Winner. Click here to watch
Joe Dante's addictive Trailers From Hell site presents the re-release trailer for the MGM Laurel and Hardy classic Way Out West. Director John Landis provides commentary for the 1937 film and there is an option to watch the trailer with its original narration. Click here to view
Unseen blooper reel footage has surfaced from the 1976 filming of the original Star Wars movie. Before anyone gets carried away, the snippets are disjointed and only moderately amusing. Nevertheless, any footage that we haven't seen is more than welcome. The blooper reel is being included in a new interactive book, The Making of Star Wars. To view the reel (some of which has no audio) click here
To order the book discounted from Amazon click here
Here's a great way to kick off Halloween...watch Ted Cassidy's 1965 appearance on Shindig in which he leads a groovy rendition of "The Lurch", the song he immortalized on The Addams Family. Cassidy even cut a hit 45 RPM of the song!
Click here for the fascinating story of how one determined man managed to restore the original Volvo P1800 driven by Roger Moore in The Saint TV series. The car had been abandoned and had been relegated to the status of a complete wreck. Kevin Price found the car neglected in a field in North Wales but it still took six years for him to persuade the owner to sell it to him. Price then spent a decade tracking down replacement parts and six more years to restore the vehicle, which is the original one driven by Moore in the series. The car is now a star in its own right at UK auto shows.
It's one of our favorite comedies of all time. We were delighted to find this Youtube footage from Hollywoodbackstage.com showing the star-studded 1963 premiere of Stanley Kramer's epic comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World at the Cinerama Dome Theatre in L.A. The guest list included stars of the film such as Milton Berle, Edie Adams and Terry-Thomas along with George Burns, Barbara Rush, Maureen O'Hara, James Garner and Rhonda Fleming.
Writer Kara Kovalchick takes a look at those vanishing elements that used to make movie-going so enjoyable but which now seem relegated to the distant past. From red velvet curtains to free dishes to uniformed ushers, these are reminders of how an evening at the movies used to be a special night out. It recalls an era when people didn't have the ability to disrupt their fellow viewers by texting and chatting on mobile phones! Click here to read
Director King Vidor's follow-up film to his massive success The Big Parade, was a relentlessly downbeat silent film titled The Crowd. The film was extremely ambitious and boasted superb production design in its cynical depiction of how big city life seems to work relentlessly against an ambitious young man and his new bride. The film's downbeat story line alienated many viewers during its initial release in 1928, but the movie foreshadowed the onslaught of unexpected misery that would envelop America the very next year with the onset of the Great Depression. In a column on TCM's Move Morlocks blog, writer R. Emmet Sweeney looks at the background of this fascinating film and reveals that it's eventual release on home video is dependent upon sales of Warner's forthcoming The Big Parade DVD. (TCM recently ran a rare broadcast of the film.) He also discusses the tragic fate of the movie's star, James Murray. Click here to read
Natalie cools off even as she heats up the audience in Splendor in the Grass.
Kimberly Lindbergs of the Movie Morlocks site presents her "Four Reasons Why I Love Natalie Wood" through analyzing Love With the Proper Stranger, This Property is Condemned, Rebel Without a Cause and Splendor in the Grass. (What? No West Side Story or Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice???) We concur that Natalie Wood's screen presence just seems to get better with time. Click here to find out why.
For a brief shining moment she was the "it" girl. In the 1940s, gorgeous Veronica Lake took Hollywood by storm. With her blonde mane done up in a distinctive style that is still very much in-vogue, Lake had the makings of an enduring sex siren. However, poor career choices coupled with a troubled personal life led to an equally rapid decline and an early death in relative obscurity. Writer Shawn Dwyer looks at the rise and fall of this Hollywood legend. Click here to read
The Total Film web site provides a useful guide to 50 cinematic gems that have not received the recognition they deserve. Although there is a heavy concentration on horror movies, the list does include other genres as well. Click here to view
Director James Whale's impact on early sound cinema cannot be overstated. His classics Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein are as revered as ever by critics and retro movie lovers. On the TCM Movie Morlocks blog, writer Kimberly Lindbergs delves into Whale's psychological state and examines how his experiences in WWI might have influenced his films...and possibly led to his suicide in 1957. Click here to read
The Penthouse production of Caligula raised more than a few eyebrows with the last minute decision to insert hardcore sex scenes.
On the heels of the news that the leading actors had been cast for the film adaptation of the steamy S&M-laced bestseller Fifty Shades of Gray, the web site Do You Remember takes a stroll down memory lane and looks at other notorious major releases that are primarily remembered for their sexual content. Click here to indulge.
Here's an unlikely pairing. It happened at the 1971 Grammy Awards when John Wayne presented the award for Best Motion Picture score. After insufferable small talk with Andy Williams, the Duke reads the winners: George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney for their score for Let It Be. Of course the Beatles were going kaput around that time, but Paul McCartney did dash up to the stage (with wife Linda) to utter a brief "Thank you" before running off again. Still, it's a fascinating pairing: Duke Wayne and Paul McCartney.
One of our favorite late career John Wayne movies is McQ, which finds the Duke as a tough detective tearing up Seattle to avenge the murder of his partner...and uncovering corruption in the top levels of the police department. The film presents one of the most exciting car chases of the era. Click here to watch the original trailer
Here's a look back at what was playing in Winnipeg, Canada during one week in 1966. The Sound of Music, Alfie, Doctor Zhivago, the remake of Stagecoach, The Appaloosa, How to Steal a Million, Gigi, The Glass Bottom Boat, Battle of the Bulge, A Fine Madness, The King and I, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Torn Curtain and a great double bill of Our Man Flint and Von Ryan's Express. Those were the days, indeed!
MacMurray was brilliant in Billy Wilder's 1960 classic The Apartment, playing the philandering married boss of Shirley MacLaine.
For the baby boomer generation, Fred MacMurray was primarily known as the affable widowed dad on My Three Sons and the star of numerous Walt Disney films. However, as Movie Morlocks writer Greg Ferrara points out, MacMurray once excelled at playing charismatic creeps, giving brilliant performances in films such as Double Indemnity, The Caine Mutiny and The Apartment. Click here to appreciate the dark side of MacMurray's talents.
Canadian cartoonist Sophie Cossette uses her considerable talents to pay tribute to cult movies and their stars and directors. Click here to view her tribute to "King Leer" himself, producer/director Russ Meyer, who certainly never went flat busted -both financially and in terms of the films he made, which showcased the best endowed actresses he could find. This was all done in an era when silicone implants would have been considered "cheating". Meyer searched out those ladies who were naturally "gifted" and made quite a few sex comedies that are so tame today they could be shown on the Disney Channel. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, they served to titillate an entire generation of men.
Newly released documents and a new book unveil heretofore unknown facts about the infamous meeting between Elvis Presley and President Richard M. Nixon in 1970. The King had written to the President in the hopes of being appointed a federal agent so that he could presumably play a role in Nixon's anti-drug war. In fact, his real motive was simply to acquire the badge as part of his collection of law enforcement memorabilia. Nixon aides persuaded the President to meet with the legendary entertainer at the White House. The meeting was initially awkward for both men. Elvis was out of his element in the White House and seemed a bit intimidated in the presence of Mr. Nixon, who, in turn, was not exactly a leading advocate of rock 'n roll music. Elvis was giddy when Nixon arranged for him to get his badge as an "honorary" agent. In the course of their 30 minute conversation, Elvis discussed how he felt he could have a persuasive effect on young people to avoid drugs (though ironically, he was falling victim to addiction himself). He also made some shocking comments about The Beatles that, when they were revealed publicly, alienated the Fab Four, who had idolized Elvis. For more click here
The Huffington Post's Jamie Scot takes a fascinating look back at the origins of gay and lesbian paperback novels that flooded the American market in the post-WWII era. It was the first acknowledgement that gays and lesbians represented significant numbers of the population, a fact attested to by the explosive sales of these novels. For the gay population during this period of cultural conservatism, these books provided a bit of titillation that heterosexual men had never had a problem accessing. More surprising to publishers was the significant sales of lesbian-themed books, some of which became bestsellers. (Undoubtedly, many of these sales could be attributed to men, who have always been preoccupied with lesbian sex.) Like any erotic paperbacks of the period, the covers of the gay-themed books featured provocative, highly suggestive artwork. Most of these artists labored in anonymity but today pulp fiction paperback art is considered by many to be an important aspect of American popular culture from this time period. Click here to read
It's hard to believe it's been 40 years since a young filmmaker named George Lucas took the world by storm with his Oscar-nominated classic American Graffiti". The film boosted Lucas' name in the industry and paved the way for him to become one of the most influential forces in the history of international cinema. Writer Michael Coate of The Digital Bits web site presents a superb look back at this timeless film and fills you in on many facts you probably didn't know. Click here to read.
Joe Dante's Trailers from Hell site presents the original theatrical trailer for Dirty Harry. You can listen to the original version or choose the option with commentary by noted screenwriter and director Alan Spencer. Click here
Entertainment Weekly film critics Owen Gleiberman and Chris Nashawaty combine their insights to produce an article that provides their opinions of the ten best and five worst Woody Allen movies. Click here to see if you agree.
The latest attempt to revive The Lone Ranger as a big screen tent pole franchise may be a financial bomb for Disney, but at least the studio is not alone in its misery. Flashback to 1980 when Universal attempted the same feat by launching The Legend of the Lone Ranger, a big budget (for the time) Western that almost eclipsed Heaven's Gate as the much-hyped box-office dud of the period. Even way back then, the idea that the Lone Ranger could be revived as anything other than a comedic film franchise seemed doubtful to many. The Western had evolved since the legendary hero had become a TV sensation beginning in 1949 with Clayton Moore playing the title role and Jay Silverheels portraying his loyal sidekick Tonto. Since then, audiences became weened on Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, the Sergio Leone "Man With No Name" trilogy and even old Duke Wayne churning out far grittier Westerns in his later years than many would have ever imagined possible. The notion of a man in a white hat hiding behind a skimpy mask seemed too hokey for words. Nevertheless, some major talent was involved in the Universal project, but it went awry from the start, beginning with the casting of Klinton Spilsbury, an unknown actor, in the title role. Studios had plucked actors from obscurity with successful results before. Christopher Reeve became a major star as Superman and George Lazenby's brief, one picture tenure as James Bond was not due to audience rejection, but his own decision to quit the series. Thus, there was some reason to believe lightning could strike again. It did- but it landed directly in the Universal board room. Spilsbury fit the bill physically with dynamic good looks...but his inexperience made for major problems behind the scenes for director William A. Fraker. Additionally, the producers undermined his performance by having actor James Keach dub most of his dialogue. Then there was a near-fatal accident involving a legendary stuntman, the bizarre decision to take legal action to prevent aging Clayton Moore from wearing his original Lone Ranger mask at autograph shows (which resulted in a public backlash) and even the assassination attempt on newly-elected President Ronald Reagan would contribute to the film's disastrous reception at the boxoffice. The downside of all this is that each time a Western performs poorly, studios shirk from making any more for long periods of time, thus hexing the only uniquely American cinematic art form. For a full report on the story behind The Legend of the Lone Ranger, click here to read a terrific article by writer Jeff Labrecque of Entertainment Weekly.
Writer Michael Coate of The Digital Bits web site commemorates the 50th anniversary of Fox's epic Cleopatra with a look at the film's roadshow engagements. (Roadshow presentations were prestigious, extended-runs in top theaters in major cities. Blockbuster films would play in these theatres for months before the movies would go into general release.) Coate also explains that the original, 4 hour version of the film only ran for an abbreviated time before being cut by one hour at the insistence of studio bosses. There is no question that Cleopatra brought Fox to the brink of bankruptcy. However, the notion that it did not attract large audiences is false. The movie drew huge crowds for extended periods of time around the globe (one roadshow engagement lasted 64 weeks!) The reason the film failed financially was because of its troubled production history that saw the movie go into a hiatus period, the leading men were recast and production was switched from England to Italy. The result was a budget that skyrocketed beyond control and all but ensured the movie's financial failure. Looking at it today, it remains an impressive movie and one of which it can truly be said, "They don't make 'em like that any more!" Click here to read
Those were the days! This entertainment section from the Dallas Morning News of May 3, 1964, shows a wealth of great movies in theaters that week- along with a stage appearance by cast members of The Beverly Hilllibillies! Among the movies you could check out this week were Tom Jones, Lilies of the Field, Move Over, Darling, Seven Days in May. The Silence and The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. (Courtesy of Jim Kroeper collection)